The United States is considering sanctions against any country offering refuge to whistleblower Edward Snowden. The 30-year-old celebrity fugitive remains stranded at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport as Russia considers his request for accommodation. The US is adamant on punishing Snowden on espionage charges for revealing details to media about the controversial PRISM program.
The head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Robert Menendez, warned that providing asylum to Snowden would be harmful to US-Russia relations. “The measure introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, demands the State Department coordinate with lawmakers on setting penalties against nations that seek to help Snowden avoid extradition to the United States,” the Washington Post reported.
The amendment would direct Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with congressional committees to consider sanctions against any country that helps Snowden. The sanctions could include revocation or suspension of trade privileges and preferences.
With the US annulling Snowden’s passport and restricting his movement in European airspace, Snowden’s prospects of getting asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua went off track.Russia remains Snowden’s only escape from the US, but Moscow is yet to approve his plea for temporary asylum. According to Graham, Snowden’s actions have had “incredibly disturbing” implications for US security.
The Snowden episode has sparked tension between Moscow and Washington at a moment when the countries’ presidents are scheduled to meet at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. There is speculation that the White House is contemplating canceling the crucial summit. Apparently the Snowden angle has inflamed other contentious issues between Washington and Moscow.
Graham, while suggesting that the US boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, said: “When it comes to Russia, it’s just not about Snowden. They are allying with Iran, 100,000 Syrians have been killed, they are providing weapons to Assad that are getting in the hands of Hezbollah. And really enough’s enough.”